D for Gerald Durrell

(1925 - 1995)

Finally, I host a gentleman author and he's certainly one of a kind – a zookeeper author. Meet Gerald Durrell. He was born to an English father and an Irish mother in Jamshedpur, India. His love affair with animals began after a visit to the zoo. He maintains that the first word he could speak out was ‘zoo’. In fact he and his wife, Jacquie, wrote only to collect funds for wildlife conservation. Yet he must have had a special gift considering he was shortlisted for the Nobel prize for Literature in 1961 and '62, despite writing not being his first love.

My family and other animals

After his father passed away the family moved to England and subsequently, when Gerry was about 10, to the Greek Island of Corfu. If you’ve read his book My family and other animals you know his life thereon. 

His family became his subjects. Larry, Leslie, Margo, Gerry himself and their indomitable mother together created one of the funniest books I’ve ever read – the kind that makes you laugh out loud not just while you’re reading it but also later when a scene suddenly springs up in your memory and you cannot stop laughing. The book is the first part of a trilogy that includes Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods.

Life with a young animal lover at home is fraught with dangers for his family like finding a bunch of scorpions in a matchbox just as you're about to light up your after dinner smoke or snakes in the bathtub after you've undressed for your bath. Obviously the book has generous doses of Corfu wildlife and you get to go on many a nature walk with Gerry.

His life in his books

Like in the book Gerry was homeschooled by his brother Larry’s friends. In fact many characters of the book were real and remained life-long friends like the Greek doctor and scientist Theodore Stephanides. A number of his other books were also based on his real life experiences like Beasts in my Belfry from the time he worked as a junior keeper in a zoo or A zoo in my Luggage, when he couldn’t find a site for his zoo and had already collected the animals. 

A true conservationist is often broke

.. and so was he. He used up his father’s inheritance to finance his wildlife expedition and continued to go on many more bringing back animals which he sold off to various zoos.

Rather than making a profit, he aimed at animal conservation – collecting not just those animals that would fetch him a good price but those that needed to be saved. As a result he was soon broke. Worse, he was black listed by the London zoo community because of a fallout with the London zoo keeper and couldn’t find work. His writings came to his rescue while he worked at an aquarium.

His own zoo

He wasn’t too happy with the way zoos were managed and decided to start his own. He founded the Jersey Zoological park now called the Durrell Wildlife Park. If you're a Durrell fan you might be interested in this site here that I stumbled upon.

Tomorrow's author is an easy guess, dear readers. Peek into your early years and if you don't find her there you've had a sad childhood indeed.

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, 2014 for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.

Also linking to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

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